It might be fitting that Linder was named the Hurricanes' Most Valuable Player as a senior, but you can easily add Most Versatile Player to that award. The Miami lineman has seen action at every position on the front wall during his college career. He backed up center Tyler Horn, replaced Harland Gunn at left guard for two games and lined up in five starting assignments in the team's "jumbo pack" that featured an extra lineman during his first season with the varsity in 2010.
As a sophomore and junior, he started at right guard, but Linder would also line up at right tackle and left guard when teammates needed a breather. As a senior, he started the first five games and last four contests at right guard, sandwiching those calls to duty around three starts at the right tackle slot in 2013.
After the 2012 season, Linder gave serious thoughts for leaving school for the National Football League, but decided to return in 2013 for his senior season. Head coach Al Golden was gratefully relieved that his standout blocker would be a Hurricane in 2013, noting, "We're blessed to have Brandon returning to our football team. He has clearly grown over the last year and has been a beacon of consistency for our student-athletes during an extraordinarily turbulent time. He's not only the most experienced Miami Hurricane, but he is a tremendous student and one of our finest leaders.
"You can see in his demeanor that he has unfinished business on his mind and is excited about returning to Coral Gables for the 2013 season. Brandon will be considered among the best at his position in the ACC, if not the country." The senior proved his coach right, as he was again named to the all-Atlantic Coast Conference team, picking up squad MVP honors and an invitation to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl.
During his career, Linder started 42 of the 49 games that he appeared in for Miami, with 37 of those assignments coming at the right offensive guard position, two at left guard and three at center in the team's "jumbo pack" formation. He would close out his career by recording 35 touchdown-resulting blocks and 275 key blocks/knockdowns.
University of Miami Hurricanes
While Linder might weigh a shade over 310 pounds, he possesses an impressive-looking frame that appears more bulkier than the scale indicates. He has the large hands (10 1/2-inches), "big guns," thick triceps, long arms (34 1/2-inches), big bubble and thick thighs and calves that teams look for in an offensive lineman. He has room on his frame to carry more bulk with no loss in his impressive initial step. He displays a tight waist and hips, easily getting his pads down to explode off the snap. He has a thick chest, broad shoulders and very good flexibility.
Linder has excellent athletic agility for this position. He possesses the loose hip, lower body flexibility and valid quickness of a tight end, coming off the snap with very good explosion. He shows good footwork and the ability to recover when he gets out of position (see 2013 South Florida and Georgia Tech games). He also possesses impressive strength and good explosion off the ball. He plays with a strong base and shows the required knee bend needed to redirect and stalk second-level defenders. He generates adequate speed working in space, making him a good trap blocker, as he does a nice job of bending and rolling his hips. He generates a strong hand punch and shows good hand/eye coordination to battle counter moves, along with the kick slide to mirror speedy edge rushers. He is quick to get out on the edge and shows fluid ankle bend when changing direction. He adds a good blend of strength, especially in his hand jolt. He moves well in the open, doing a nice job of locating and neutralizing linebackers. He shows good acceleration on pulls and traps, running with short pitter-patter steps with the plant-and-drive agility to redirect.
Linder is quick to pick up defensive schemes. He is a smart player who easily takes plays from the chalk board to the playing field. He displays good position agility, field vision and alertness (see 2013 Virginia and Pittsburgh games). He smart enough to call blocking assignments, if needed, and makes quick adjustments on the move. Teams are certain that he will have no problems dealing with the mental aspect of the game, as he excels at picking up blitzes and making the switch into the second level.
Linder's personality changes from quiet and respectful off the field, to aggressive and, at times, downright nasty when he gets into the trenches. He plays with a high motor, knowing that his athletic ability will let him beat even the speedier pass rushers along the edge. He is on the cusp of getting better, as he takes great pride in his work ethic. He is the type that will not hesitate to grind defenders into the ground and does not stop blocking until he hears the whistle. He could be a very capable pulling guard at the next level, as he shows consistent effort stalking second level defenders. You saw in 2013 that he is willing to push himself in all areas to be better (classic overachiever). As a senior, he never complained as he had to shift positions during several games (played the first five games and final four contests at right guard and started games six-through-eight at right tackle) to cover for deficiencies of other blockers on the front wall.
Linder has adequate sustained speed (5.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash), but coming off the snap, he gets a very strong thrust, playing at the right pad level and with his arms inside his frame to instantly attack the defender's chest. He has the nimble feet to get into position in order to take advantage of his assignment off the snap, doing a nice job of gaining a step on the blitzing linebackers (see 2013 Savannah State, South Florida and Pittsburgh games) or edge rusher (see 2013 Wake Forest and Florida State contests). He has impressive initial quickness and is very light on his feet for a player of his size, showing quick reactions to combat any defensive movement. Whether lining up in a two- or three-point stance, he can set up to protect the edge with good urgency.
Linder is nimble on his feet, keeping his pads down and knees and ankles bent to fluidly change direction. He can slide well in either direction and pulls well along the line, but with his solid hand placement attacking on the move, he might be more valuable to a team as a trap blocking guard rather than operating stationary on an island at tackle. He has good explosion off the snap and good timed speed, but when he gets high in his stance, he will sometimes get too erect, making him struggle a bit to redirect. When he shifts his weight and bends at the knees, he is quite capable of handling the edge rusher's spin moves.
Balance/Stays On Feet
Linder is a hard object to move out when he plants his feet firmly at the point of attack. He has a strong hand punch and is very active using those hands in attempts to sustain. He does a solid job executing reach blocks and maintaining position when working in-line. He could use more bulk to clear out and maintain the rush lanes, but shows quick feet in his kick slide. For some reason, he seems to struggle when he does not get low in his stance to generate leverage on the move, but he has the reach and extension ability to cover defenders up at the line of scrimmage. He has that upper body strength needed to finish his blocks (see 2013 Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh games). With his tireless work ethic, he will generally use all his tools in attempts to put his man on the ground.
As a senior, Linder showed much better explosion with his hands coming off the snap (see 2013 Florida Atlantic, Virginia Tech and Virginia games). In the past, he tended to lean and use his body more than gain proper hand placement. When he stays low in his stance, he is effective at getting under the defender's pads to jolt the opponent. He now does a much better job of using his strength and quickness to attack the defender off the snap than he did in the past. He can fire off the ball on run blocks, showing very good hip roll in this area. With added bulk, he could develop into a tough road grader that buries the defender into the ground. You can see his ability and consistency in staying low in his stance, doing a nice job of rolling his hips.
Linder is a consistent drive blocker who works hard to finish. He has the strength and athletic ability to adjust on the move (when he keeps his pad level) and recover when he gets out of position. With his combination of quick footwork, impressive strength and tireless work effort, he can easily move the defender off the ball and create big rushing lanes (see 2013 Florida Atlantic, south Florida and Pittsburgh games). Coming off the snap, Linder is quick to get his hands into the defender to lock on and control. He has good forward body lean to maintain the rush lane and can move the pile when he uses his legs to drive hard and gain leverage. With added bulk, he could be exceptional as a drive blocker. He has the feet to stay on blocks and sustain and shifts his weight well for a player of his size.
Linder generates very good strength behind his hand punch. He has the foot speed and balance to slide back and mirror edge rushers, shifting his weight properly to readjust to inside movement (see 2013 south Florida and Wake Forest games), but when he loses hand control, quicker defenders can slip off his blocks. He has the strong upper body and good lean to lock up and steer his man. He will probably need to add more bulk to anchor at the NFL level, but he has the feet, balance and body control to ride his man out of the play. He is fluid with his shuffle/slide and stays square and balanced attacking the defender. Even if he gets over-extended, he has the quickness to recover.
As an offensive tackle, Linder was not asked to pull and trap much, but has the quickness to turn it up on the second level defenders when working in-line as a guard. He is athletic and smooth in his movements and has the body control to execute blocks in space. He just needs to remember to maintain proper pad level working in the second level (will get too tall in his stance, causing his base to narrow). When he does pull, he takes good angles stalking linebacker (see 2013 Florida Atlantic, South Florida and Virginia games). With his body control and hand contact on the move, I would have no problem utilizing him as a guard.
Adjust on Linebacker Downfield
Linder has the flexibility and reach to adjust to second-level defenders (see 2013 Georgia Tech and North Carolina games). He will smother line-backers up and move on to another target when he plays at a good pad level. He does a good job of executing pancake blocks when he stays on his feet, but must stay low in his pads in order to make contact on open field blocks.
Use of Hands/Punch
Linder used to carry his hands a little low, but he has greatly improved his placement, thanks to his consistency in keeping his arms within his frame rather than taking wild swipes. He generates very good strength when striking and does a nice job of getting bull rushers off balanced and taking them to the ground (84 key blocks/ knockdowns with 11 touchdown-resulting blocks during 2013). He can extend, jolt and shock the opponent when he gets his hands on them. He is strong on top, but still learning the proper technique for grabbing (must maintain inside hand control to be highly effective). He can stun people with his punch and control the point of attack, especially when he keeps his hands tight to punch with power. With past experience in the pivot, a possible move to center would not be at all surprising.
Linder is alert to stunts and games. He has the foot quickness to make the reach blocks and is fluid in his kick slide. He loops well and is quick to change direction, reacting quickly moving side to side. He shows good vision to combat twists and has the balance to recover when caught out of position. He is also alert to defensive schemes (see 2013 North Carolina and Virginia Tech games) and keeps his head on a swivel to come up with a big play when he has to defend vs. a turnover.
JEFF HARTINGS-ex-Pittsburgh: Linder also has similarities to the former 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin, as he has developed that hand punch that simply puts his man on the ground. He is very effective working in combination with his center, tight ends and offensive tackles, but with his trap blocking skills, he might be a better fit at right guard in the NFL. With his snap quickness and versatility, he can be a valuable performer across the front wall, thanks to starting experience each position. His frame looks bigger than the scale indicates and he is a solid lunch-pail type that forsakes personal success, if it means he can get a win for his team. Like Hartings, Linder shows great aggressiveness in his play. He has the vision and alertness to pick up stunts and the foot speed to neutralize edge rushers, which make him a good fit for an interior line spot (guard or center). He will need to add more bulk to play tackle at the next level, but his strength and versatility are great assets that will make him an ideal fit for a zone blocking scheme.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft.